I have been competing in FTR competition since 2009, finished in the top ten 3 times at the National Championship matches. Won the Rocky Mountain Palma Match, State Championships in Ohio and Kentucky, won 5 Camp Perry shoot-off matches. Shot on the USA Team that won the America Match in 2012 at Camp Perry and the 4-man USA Team that won the World Championship at Raton, NM in 2013. More recently I shot for Team Sinclair, winning the East Coast Nationals at Camp Butner, NC in 2014 and on the winning 2014 National Championship Sinclair FTR Team. I've also competed in archery, pistol, and shotgun competitions. By far, long range shooting is my favorite shooting discipline.
Your favorite reloading product?
My favorite reloading product is the Sinclair Premium Neck Turning Tool W/ Handle, I also use the expander mandrels provided by Sinclair for sizing the brass in preparation for the turning process. Correct and repeatable neck tension begins with turning necks to a uniform thickness. Sinclair also has mandrels to size the necks after neck turning that accurately size the necks for a specific neck tension.
Optic you find most useful?
The scope/optic I find the most useful is the Nightforce Competition Scope. This scope is very lightweight, has 15- 55X magnification, world class quality glass, 10 moa per revolution on the turrets, 1/8 moa adjustments, perfect for F-class competition.
Rest, bipod or shooting accessory you can’t live without?
A good pair of shooting glasses.
How did you get started shooting?
I started shooting a BB gun as soon as I was old enough to cock it, been shooting something ever since then. I enjoy all the shooting disciplines, handgun, shotgun, and especially archery.
Why did you get into FTR shooting?
I started shooting FTR because I wanted to improve my rifle skills for hunting big game animals, got hooked and never looked back. I still hunt big game in the western states as much as possible.
What do you find most challenging?
It has to be keeping up with the competition, our sport has grown so quickly with new talented shooters. Staying at the top requires having a laser of a rifle, perfect loads, near perfect wind reading, and of course breaking good shots.
What is the one piece of gear you cannot do without?
That would be a good set of elbow pads. It's hard to keep concentrating on shooting when your elbows are rubbed raw from days of competing on them.
What is the one piece of shooting gear that people would not suspect that is a mainstay in your bag?
It has to be bug spray, we shoot from the ground but our shooting mats aren’t that big. It’s hard to concentrate with bugs crawling or chewing on you.
What is in range bag for meet days?
Rear bag, towel, shooting glasses, canned air, ear protection, data book, pen, rifle rain cover, hat, rifle tools, timer, ammo, and bug spray.
Walk us through an average day at the range.
Arrive early, get squadding card, move gear, watch wind speed/direction, check over rifle and gear, sit and relax, visualize and focus on the most important goal of the day. Most days we shoot 3 relays of 20 shots, it’s important to eat and hydrate continually all day. My focus and concentration are better when I snack all day with fruit and energy bars, lots of water. While taking my turn in the pits, I try to relax and only focus on what is ahead of me and none of what’s already happened.
Walk us through your load development.
I call Derek Rodgers and get his load data, he is the best load development shooter I know.
Walk us through your pre-competition preparation?
Lots of visualization, run the video in my head of what I expect to see and of my performance. I think about the correct strategy for the conditions, staying disciplined to the strategy.
Who would you recommend for metal work on your rifle?
I do all my own metal work, years of working in the tool/die industry has prepared me well for that role. There are lots of good rifle builders, Alan Warner at Warner Tool Company, and Speedy Gonzalez at S.G. Precision Rifles, LLC are a couple of the very best.
Who would you recommend for stock work on your rifle?
Alex Sitman at Master Class Stocks is the best in my opinion, Kelbly’s, Ray Bowman at PRT are also at the top of the list.
Who has been your biggest influence in shooting?
Eric Bair, 2006 F-Open National Champion helped me get started and gave me great advice. Most of the shooters on Team USA and Team Sinclair help each other, nobody knows all the answers but we share what we have learned. Danny Biggs, 2008 & 2009 FTR National Champion also helped me when I was struggling to learn some of the ranges, I learned a lot from Danny.
What rear bag do you use?
I use a 2 bag system, large bag on bottom with a smaller bag on top. I had the bags made of marine canvas, zippered and filled with plastic beads. I can adjust the amount of fill to make them a perfect height for my shooting position. Teammate Jeff Rorer uses a similar system and mine is nearly a copy of his rear bags.
What do you do to mentally prepare before you shoot?
Sitting and visualizing helps me to relax, rely on your training, just lay down and do what you do.
What is something you would not recommend before a shoot?
No late nights or excessive alcohol, very little caffeine in the morning, leave your cell turned off, avoid emotional people.
Did you come from another discipline?
I've competed in archery, pistol, and shotgun competitions. By far, long range shooting is my favorite shooting discipline. I also have a 338 Lapua Magnum rifle that I use for matches up to and beyond 1 mile, I enjoy shooting them all.
When not shooting FTR what other things do you enjoy doing?
I ride a mountain bike and a road bike, love hiking and plan to do a “rim to rim” hike of the Grand Canyon in October. My wife and I enjoy having a large vegetable garden. I enjoy backpacking, hunting birds over my pointer, bowhunting deer, and college football games.
What style of action are you using? (Right feed/Right eject)
Barnard and Kelbly actions, mostly right feed/right eject.
What is your process when beginning to work up a load?
Measure throat length with bullet of your choice, determine how much room is left in the case.
The above measurement determines what powders you can use, we use only Hogdon extreme powders.
Shoot a ladder test to find the accuracy node for that bullet/powder combination, .20 gr. Increments, 5 rounds each
Take the best 2 loads and do a jump test with 5 rounds each, test at .005”, .025”, .060” jump. One of these groups will be significantly better than the rest, now you can tweak that measurement +/- .002” or .005” to get the best accuracy.
Test at least 3 different primers to determine which offers a little better ignition for your load, a 5 shot test will usually tell you which is the best.
Go back and test the 2 best combinations in a 10 shot test at least twice, pick a cool overcast day and also a hot sunny day and compare results.
Take your final “best load” back and do a “simulated match”, 20 shots, waiting at least 20 seconds between shots. If you like those results it’s probably a reliable and accurate load.
What would you suggest for someone wanting to get into the sport?
Find a local club with some FTR shooters and ask for their help. Most shooters will be happy to take you with them to a match, listen and learn while you’re there. You may find out it’s not what you thought, or you may be hooked. If you decide to jump in, start with an inexpensive rifle. This sport is expensive and you don’t need a $5k rifle to learn good wind reading skills. Start with a used Savage FTR rifle and learn the basics, shoot for a year at least before making a larger investment. The money you saved buying a used Savage rifle will help pay for your divorce lawyer…LOL
What your ingredients to the winning team Sinclair recipe? (What is your strength in team Sinclair?)
My background is Tool/Die and engineering, I believe those skills have helped our Team.
What training drills do you use?
Dry firing the rifle at home is a good way to practice when you can’t get to the range and shoot. It allows me to practice setup, rifle handling, and position. When I can practice at a local range, I also dry fire between shots to increase the amount of repetitions and increase the time spent in position.
How often do you practice?
In good weather I practice a couple times a week at the local range, a couple more dry firing practices/week at home.
How many rounds do you shoot in a year?
Typically between 2,000-2,500 rounds per year.
What do you wish would be available to further the sport?
The sport needs more young shooters, and a better method of promoting all the shooting sports to the youth. Most people are fascinated by the precision of long range shooting, the shooting sports need a better system of exposing our youth to shooting. The high school in Wickenburg, Arizona has a rifle team that shoots mid-range and long range matches locally. As far as I know, they are the only high school shooting team in our country! Certainly their success could be copied at other schools across the country, putting out the future stewards of our shooting sports.
Best advice you would give a beginner?
Seek out the local FTR shooters and go to matches with them, listen and learn. Attend Team matches and offer to score for one of the teams. As a scorer, you will sit close enough to hear the coach make wind calls and see the results on the target. Through the spotting scope you will see changes in mirage and it’s the quickest way to learn the basics of wind reading. Choosing and buying equipment is relatively easy, learning to read the wind is a journey.
What do you need to compete?
Besides the obvious gear, you need a mentor, a place to shoot, and the strong will that’s in every true competitor.
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